Million-dollar field project to honor Cliff Walton

Hawken School has unveiled a $1.95 million plan to turf two of its Upper School athletic fields and equip the improved football field with lights, naming it Walton Stadium at Humphrey Field in honor of longtime football coach Cliff Walton. The project, which received nearly $1.3 million in funding in only a month, is intended to engender the type of \"Friday Night Lights\" school spirit that alumni, students and parents agree will only strengthen the Hawken community. The improvements are a result of a series of conversations Head of School Scott Looney had with the community, especially the senior class in small-group luncheons, about what was needed to enliven the school. \"The two things that actually stuck with me was this idea of school spirit and this idea of traditions,\" Looney recently told the school body during his announcement of the field upgrades. Resoundingly, students felt that Hawken`s strength in part lay in the School`s spirit and its traditions, and the two needed a boost. The source of this boost, they said, was athletics. The sense of community felt as friends, parents and teachers gather for athletic events is second-to-none. And what`s more, they said, to be able to play those sports under the glare of Friday night lights, not at an away game but at home, while our community surrounded and cheered, rooting for the Red and Gray, might just do the trick. When Looney began sharing what he`d learned with trustees, they quickly launched an initiative that had $700,000 raised in just a week. Within a couple more weeks, that figure soared to $1.3 million, and the project had the unanimous support of the Board of Trustees. The new complex will include a multipurpose turf stadium, which will accommodate football, softball, baseball, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse. A second turf practice field will also accommodate all field sports. The stadium will be lit and enable all field sports to be featured at night. Hawken`s new world-class facility will be the only one of its kind in the area. \"You guys asked for it,\" Looney said. \"You got it.\" \"You guys work extraordinarily hard. We need to have a little bit more fun out here, and I don`t think those two things are mutually exclusive.\" The decision to name the stadium after Coach Walton came at the request of two donors as a tribute to his nearly three decades of leadership on and off the field. During his almost 30-year tenure, Walton has coached 15 percent of Hawken`s living alumni. \"If you listen to them and you hear their stories, you will hear how much he helped them become better people,\" Looney said. \"If there`s a reoccurring theme in everything that Mr. Walton does, it`s that character matters, integrity matters and that the adults in this community are here to help students find that.\" One of the students that Walton guided is former Hawken football standout Eric Hamilton `82, who went on to play as a wide receiver for Penn State and won two national championships in 1983 and 1987. \"For me, Coach Walton was emblematic of what [Hawken] stood for,\" he said. \"He is Hawken School...As a teacher, as a coach, as a friend, he`s great.\" As the announcement was made that the facility would bear the Walton name, the student body, faculty, staff and donors erupted in applause, standing to their feet. \"I have a CD that was given to me and there`s a particular song on there which the singer reflects on a lot of things going on in his life, and the refrain is simply this: `just another reminder that God`s been good to me,`\" Walton said in accepting the honor. \"So as I sniff this perfume I understand that. As I think back to being here 30 years, I understand that. As I think of the athletes in the room, I understand that.\" Walton told the audience to appreciate Hawken School for everything thing that it is.

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